By Sainey M.K. Marenah, Shout-Africa.com Special correspondent and Bureau Chief In Banjul,- The Gambia Special Criminal Court yesterday pronounced a “life imprisonment” verdict on the former Minister of Information, Dr Amadou Scattred Janneh, after the court found him guilty of the offence of treason.
Dr Amadou Scattered Janneh, who was charged with two counts of treason and another two counts of sedition was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on both counts of treason.
He was jailed alongside three others, namely Nigerian Michael C. Ucheh Thomas, Modou Keita and Ebrima Jallow, who were also charged with two counts of seditious acts. The three each received three years imprisonment with hard labour.
Justice Emmanuel Nkea who based his marathon judgment on the case of the prosecution witnesses, said he was convinced that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against the convicts and proved their case beyond any shadow of doubt that the convicts are indeed culpable of the offences charged.
He said he believed that the evidence of the prosecution witnesses corroborated each other, likewise the exhibits tendered before the court, including the T-shirts, hard drive, and email printouts.
He gave a synopsis of the case of the prosecution, before evaluating it in accordance with the law.
He said the defence failed to open their defence without considering the legal effects of such issues, before making reference to similar cases.
He questioned the reason why the convicts failed to open their defence to challenge the case of the prosecution, but instead relied on the case of prosecution witnesses.
“What does it mean when the convicts rested their case on the prosecution? Is it not suicidal for the defence to rest their case entirely on the prosecution?” the judge questioned.
Nkea believed that the goal of the whole issue was to overthrow the government of The Gambia which can be found in corroborative evidence of PW1 and 7, together with the exhibits tendered in court.
“It is a fact that the purpose of the mass street demonstration and protest was to dislodge the President, and looking at the word dislodge means forcefully. I also hold it as a fact that the aim of the CCG was to overthrow the Gambia Government by unlawful means,” he further stated.
The judge said from the evidence of the prosecution witnesses, Dr Janneh played a pivotal role in the activities of the CCG, thereby having access to its account address and mail, adding that the intended outcome of the mass protest was to forcefully remove the President, which Justice Nkea said was unconstitutional and that it is only through elections that the President could be removed from power.
He adduced that there was unchallenged evidence, adding that the case of the prosecution was plain, before holding the men guilty of the offence on all counts.
Plea of mitigation
In his plea of mitigation, defence counsel Camara said of Dr Janneh, 49, “is an intellectual with four children, and he has never been found wanting by the law.”
“He is the breadwinner of his family and others that are employed by his company,” counsel further told the court about Janneh.
For Modou Kieta, 28, counsel said his client is unmarried and is in his youthful age, adding that he has responsibility for the maintenance of his family, and imposing a custodial sentence will have effects on his family.
Camara made a similar plea for both Jallow and Micheal, adding that Michael, 47, is a foreigner residing in The Gambia for the past 10 years, and inculcating education in school children as a teacher.
For Ebrima Jallow, his aging parents are in the provinces, so with the verdict it would be hard for the aging parents to cope with the situation.
Counsel begged the court to temper justice with mercy, and impose a fine or lighter sentence.
Nkea before passing sentence, said:“I have carefully listene to the defence plea, but the issue of treason is becoming rampant and the court has a duty to put a remedy to the situation, before it will get out of hand.”
He said treason has far reaching consequences on government, and this would serve as a deterrent to others.
He consequently passed the above sentences.
The defence counsel told journalists, shortly after the verdict, that it was very harsh and his clients would immediately appeal against the sentences at the Gambia Court of Appeal.
The prosecution had called 14 witnesses, including police officers, investigators and civilians.
Dr Janneh, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew K. Jallow and Famara Demba were accused, among others, of conspiring among themselves on 26th May 2011 at diverse places in The Gambia, to print and distribute 100 T-shirts which carried a ‘seditious’ statement: “Coalition for Change – The Gambia: End Dictatorship Now.”
State prosecutors accused Dr Janneh on count one of treason, stating that he conspired with Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew K Jallow, Famara Demba, and others at large, on 26th May 2011 in diverse places in The Gambia, to overthrow the Gambia government.
Dr Janneh, Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Mathew K. Jallow, and Famara Demba were also accused of preparing to overthrow the government by unlawful means, and on count three, prosecutors further charged Dr Janneh, Modou Keita, Ebrima Jallow, and Micheal C. Ucheh Thomas with seditious acts.
Prosecutors said the four accused persons and others at large conspired to print and distribute 100 T-shirts which carried ‘seditious’ statements: “Coalition for Change – The Gambia: End Dictatorship Now.”
Dr Janneh and his co-accused were also charged with intent to cause or bring into hatred, contempt or excite disaffection against the person of the President or the Government of The Gambia, by printing and distributing 100 T-shirts.
Janneh, a former political science lecturer in the US, was at one time the political and economic affairs officer at the US Embassy in Banjul.